Phoenix in December means a cool high of 70's and 80's with a low of around 40 or 50 degrees. And in Phoenix's Sonoran Desert, Camelback Santa doesn't ride a sleigh; instead, he switches out his famous black boots for durable hiking shoes. Located just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is one of Phoenix's best hikes and most popular attractions for thousands of visiting hikers each year. Two difficult trails ascend 1,420 feet to a summit resembling the hump of a camel's back, affording 360-degree views of the surrounding city.
Camelback Santa aka John Cressey, a Scottsdale resident, dons a Santa costume and hikes up Camelback Mountain every weekend in December. With an environmentally-friendly Christmas tree in-hand, Camelback Santa brings holiday cheer to hikers on the mountain's trails. To keep in line with The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department's leave no trace policy, all tree ornaments are made from birdseed and the decorated Christmas tree is never abandoned on the mountain; it's brought up and down on each hike.
Cressey hands out candy canes to those on the "Nice" list on his way to the top, and he, along with his helpful elves, has given out thousands of candy canes to hikers over the years (and for those on the "Naughty" list, he hands out coal). But that's not all the good Santa does to land on the Valley's "Nice" list. Since 2013, when the annual tradition started, Cressey has used his holiday cheer for good; he fundraises for St. Mary's Food Bank, to ensure no one goes hungry during the holiday season.
This year, Camelback Santa told Visit Phoenix that Phoenix topped the "Nice" list. Check out our interview with Camelback Santa above to learn more about what he has to say about his favorite Suns player, his top place to rest after spreading holiday cheer, and why he opts to hike Camelback Mountain every year.